A to Z

A complete overview of the innovation funnel, with tips & tricks, tools and related methodologies. Everything you need to launch new products or services, or to re-design and improve existing ones. From blank page to development.

What is this for?

Agile, design thinking, lean startup. What is what? Perhaps an even more important question to ask, when to use what? Besides the general acceptance they all fall within the category of innovation methodologies, what else do those names have in common with each other? And could someone please explain where they overlap?

Named after its function, the Innovation A to Z, designed by Board of Innovation, brings together the best of design thinking, lean startup, and agile, to give a complete overview of the innovation spectrum.

Through 21 key questions, it guides you through what you’ve already accomplished, and what’s still ahead. Rest assured when you’re stuck at a certain step: the map contains references to various tools within our online repository (tool-ception), to help you get unstuck and move forward.

Step-by-step guide

Step 1 to Step 3


Step 1

Do you have a clearly defined challenge? Defining your challenge not only helps you to onboard your team members and get them on the same page, it also helps you to identify the right people to have within the project team. You want to have people who can contribute through their different field expertise and offer a new lens to look at the challenge. It’s also a way to move away from solution focus and thus expanding the exploration space so the team can come up with endless possibilities on how to tackle the challenge at hand. Try the scoping canvas as a template to scope your project.

Step 2

Does your challenge involve or affect end users? A first user-centric check on who is impacted by the challenge at hand.

Step 3

Does the challenge contain a solution? If you are investigating a concrete solution, ask yourself: is the underlying problem already validated? In other words, are you sure that your solution is going to address a real problem? If yes, then you can jump ahead to solution fit. If not, keep validating the problem before jumping to solution development.

Step 4 to Step 7

Problem fit.

Step 4

Have you defined a user group you want to solve the problem for? Clarity check on who is impacted by the challenge. Use the persona to give a characterization to your user group, and a customer journey map to further empathize with the persona at hand

Step 5

Have you interviewed at least 10 users from the user group you identified? Extreme users over-accentuate the behavior of our target group. They’re of great value during the empathy phase to uncover underlying needs, motivation and drivers we otherwise wouldn’t have noticed by simply examining users falling within the Bell curve. Use empathy interviews, fragment cards, and linear unpacking to guide you through the empathy phase.

Step 6

Have you discovered new useful insights through the research? Did you manage to set aside your assumptions and to(remove) learn new things about your users?

Step 7

Have you formulated a key insight to focus on? What’s the most surprising and actionable learning you’ve gained from the empathy phase? And how can this insight help you and the team to look at the challenge from a different angle?

Step 8 to Step 13

Solution fit.

Step 8

Have you done several ideation rounds to come up with lots of ideas? Opening up the creative space for the team ideate is important to come up with out-of-the-box ideas. Popular tools like opposite thinking, analogy thinking, brain writing, and our brainstorm cards can help you get started. More info? Download our Ideation Guide, where you’ll find detailed information about ideation and brainstorm workshops. Extra points if you decide to co-design the solutions with your target users through a co-creation session.

Step 9

Have you identified and outlined the most promising concept solutions? This is the converging phase of ideation: make sure to convert hundreds of post-its into few promising concepts that may have the highest potential. Use the idea shopping cart to select the most promising concepts generated during the ideation phase, and map them out on a How-Now-Wow matrix to prioritize the most impactful ones. Then use a concept card to add more body to your single post-it idea to finalise the selection process.

Step 10

Have you selected a concept solution and defined the critical assumptions from the user’s perspective? Similarly to what happens in science, we need to move from uncertainty to certainty through experimentation and validation (download our Validation Guide for more info). How to do it? By mapping out the assumptions of the concept we’re validating. A set of controlled experiments will let you test your assumptions one by one – use an experiment card to frame each experiment.

Step 11

Have you made a low fidelity prototype to test these assumptions? Often, there’s a gap between what users say versus what they do. By making a prototype that users can experience, you can overcome this gap and gain clear validation of your underlying assumptions.

Step 12

Have you tested the prototype with users? Once you have your prototype, go out of the building to test with users in order to maximize your learning. Remember: fail fast in order to succeed faster, so don’t fall in love with your solution yet.

Step 13

Has the solution been validated? If not, it’s time to include user feedback and pivot your solution. This phase will require some time from your side: you’ll need to revise your prototype over and over again until you’re confident about the user desirability of the solution.

Step 14 to Step 21

Market fit.

Step 14

Do you have a clear understanding of the business model? Having a solution that the user desires is great. This iconic moment marks the passage from desirability to viability, from solution fit to market fit. Now, we need to check whether our validated solution is viable: in other words, can we make money out of it? To get started, we created the Business Model Kit, a tool that helps you highlight the stakeholders involved in the new product or service, and the value exchange between them. Is every stakeholder giving and receiving something?

Step 15

Do you have a clear value proposition? What’s the key value that your solution provides? How does it differ from the rest of the market? If you cannot formulate this, you only have a solution – not a value offer. To do so, you can use the popular business model canvas.

Step 16

Do you have an idea of the ROI you’ll achieve with your solution? Numbers say more than words: get your numbers straight. At this stage, a common mistake of many ventures is to focus too much time on “excel theatre”: hours and hours spent pulling sales number and costs out of the hat. To save time, we suggest looking at the high-level numbers – try out the “ballpark figures”.

Step 17

Have you mapped the business model assumptions? What are the assumptions you’ve made about your business model? Follow again the validation track to find adequate evidence for (or reject) your hypotheses.

Step 18

Have you tested them with the right people in your ecosystem? After mapping the assumptions, don’t forget to test them with the right target.

Step 19

Have you tested your solution quantitatively to validate desirability and willingness to pay? Until now, you have relied mainly on qualitative testing to maximise your learnings. Once this is complete, it’s time to run a test at scale to verify if there’s still a solid willingness to commit from your users.

Step 20

Have you gotten buy-in from key stakeholders? Often, solutions are not created in a vacuum and you need the support from the right people eg. sponsor approval for actual implementation.

Step 21

Congratulations! You’re ready to make this concept a reality. The efforts put in so far have de-risked your solution. You now have a solution that is desirable (customers love it), and viable (you’ve identified reliable revenue streams). Work with your agile team to develop your solution, and continue to refine it as you go. Good luck!

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